Busiños vs Ricafort Code of Ethics

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  thereon. [A.C. No. 4349. December 22, 1997] On 16 October 1997, the Bar Confidant, Atty. Erlinda C. Verzosa, submitted her Report and Recommendation, material portions of which read as follows: Respondent Atty. Francisco Ricafort stands charged with having misappropriated the sum of P30,000.00 intended for his clients as well as having deceived his clients into giving him the sum of P2,000.00 purportedly to be deposited as a bond in the case he was handling. Complainant Lourdes R. Busiños is one
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  [A.C. No. 4349. December 22, 1997]LOURDES R. BUSIÑOS, c omplainant, vs. ATTY. FRANCISCORICAFORT, respondent. R E S O L U T I O N PER CURIAM  : In a sworn complaint for disbarment dated 31 October 1994 butreceived by us on 21 November 1994, complainant Lourdes R. Busiñoscharged respondent Atty. Francisco Ricafort, a practicing lawyer in Oas, Albay, with having committed the crime of estafa under Article 315 (1) (b)of the Revised Penal Code by misappropriating the sum of P32,000.00. Of this amount, P30,000.00 was entrusted to respondent for deposit in thebank account of complainant’s husband, while P2,000.00 represented theamount respondent demanded from complainant supposedly for a bond inCivil Case No. 5814, when no such bond was required.In the resolution of 18 January 1995, we required respondent tocomment on the complaint. Despite his receipt of a copy of the resolution,respondent did not comply, compelling us in the resolution of 17 July 1995to require him to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt withor held in contempt for such failure. Again respondent failed to comply. Hence in the resolution of 25September 1996, we ordered him once more to file his comment within ten(10) days from notice, and within the same period, to pay a fine of P1,000.00 or suffer imprisonment of ten (10) days should he fail to so pay.In a Compliance and Motion dated 24 October 196, respondenttransmitted the fine of P1,000.00 by way of postal money order, but askedfor five (5) days from date to file his comment. As respondent still failed toso file, we then declared, in the resolution of 2 December 1996, thatrespondent was deemed to have waived his right to file his comment, andreferred the complaint to the Office of the Bar Confidant for reception of complainant’s evidence and submission of a report and recommendationthereon.On 16 October 1997, the Bar Confidant, Atty. Erlinda C. Verzosa,submitted her Report and Recommendation, material portions of whichread as follows:Respondent Atty. Francisco Ricafort stands charged withhaving misappropriated the sum of P30,000.00 intended for hisclients as well as having deceived his clients into giving him thesum of P2,000.00 purportedly to be deposited as a bond in thecase he was handling.Complainant Lourdes R. Busiños is one of the heirs of Pedro Rodrigo who are the defendants in Civil Case No. 1584,apparently a case involving the properties of the late PedroRodrigo, father of herein complainant. Respondent was thecounsel of record for the defendants in the said case. On July10, 1994, complainant representing her co-heirs, executed aspecial power of attorney, appointing and constitutingrespondent and/or Pedro Rodrigo, Jr. to be her true and lawfulattorney-in-fact with the following powers:“1.To attend to and represent me, testify,or otherwise enter into compromise during the pre-trialstage or other proceedings in Civil Case No. 1584,entitled “Heirs of Rosario Rodrigo-Reantaso, vs. Heirsof Pedro Rodrigo Sr., et al.” now pending before theRegional Trial Court, Branch 12, Ligao, Albay;“2To demand, collect and receipt for anyand all sums of money that may now be deposited insaid court by the defendant Oas Standard High Schoolor hereafter be deposited by said defendant, due andowing to me or said Heirs of Pedro Rodrigo Sr.,representing the rentals of said defendants for thelease of the property involved in said case; and“3To sign, authenticate, issue and deliver any and all deeds, instruments, papers and other records necessary and pertinent to the above statedtransactions.”On August 10, 1994, the Regional Trial Court of Ligao, Albay, Br. 12 issued an order, directing the Clerk of Court “to 1  release any and all deposits of rentals made in connection withthis case (Civil Case No. 1584) to the defendants Heirs of PedroRodrigo through Lourdes Rodrigo Businos who were receivingthe rentals from Oas Standard High School prior to the institutionof this case.”In a letter dated August 10, 1994, the Clerk of Court of RTC, Ligao informed herein complainant that respondent hadalready received the rental deposit of P25,000.00 on eve date(see Annex “C” to the complaint). Respondent also receivedfrom Oas Standard High School on August 17, 1994 the sum of P5,000.00 as payment for rental of school site for the month of July 1994 (See Annex “D” to the complaint). The said sum wasentrusted to respondent with an obligation on his part to depositthe same in the account of complainant’s husband at PNB,Ligao Branch. Instead, however, of depositing the money,respondent converted the money to his own personal use, anddespite several demands, he failed to return the same tocomplainant. She was thus constrained to file a criminal case for estafa and an administrative case for disbarment against him.Thus, on November 21, 1994, complainant filed the instantadministrative case against respondent.Complainant further accuses respondent for demandingand receiving P2,000.00 from her which he said will be used for the bond in Civil Case No. 1584, but said amount was never used as intended since no bond was required in the said case.Thus, respondent merely pocketed the said amount.xxxxxxxxxComplainant, upon questioning by the undersigned,testified that: She authorized respondent to withdraw the moneyamounting to P35,000.00 representing the rental fee paid byOas Standard High School from the Clerk of Court, with theinstruction to deposit the same in her savings account at thePNB. After she was informed by the court that respondent hadalready withdrawn the money, she expected in vain to receivethe money a week later in Tarlac as respondent failed to effectthe deposit of the said sum in her account. She demanded fromhim to give her the money, but he informed her that he hadalready spent the same. He promised, though to pay her thesaid amount. (pp. 7-8, TSN, Reception of Evidence, April 18,1997). She clarified that respondent withdrew only the sum of P30,000.00 from the Clerk of Court, while the P5,000.00 waswithdrawn by respondent from Oas Standard High School (TSN,p. 8). Despite several demands, both from her and her lawyer,respondent failed to make good his promise to give her themoney he withdrew from the Clerk of Court and Oas StandardHigh School (TSN, pp. 11-13). She was then constrained to filea criminal case for estafa and an administrative case againstrespondent sometime in November of 1994 to recover themoney in question (TSN, pp. 14-16).On their third hearing of theestafa case sometime in 1995, respondent came with the moneyand paid complainant inside the courtroom (TSN, pp. 15, 19-20).Because of this development, she did not anymore pursue theestafa case against respondent (TSN, p. 17). She has nointention, however, of withdrawing the instant complaint (TSN, p.18).She further testified that respondent demanded from her the sum of P2,000.00 for the bond required in the civil case.(TSN, p. 18). Respondent did not give her a receipt for the saidamount. (TSN, p. 19). Respondent gave back the P2,000.00 tocomplainant. He paid complainant a total of P   60,000.00representing the money he withdrew from the Clerk of Court andOas Standard High School, the P2,000.00 he got fromcomplainant and attorney’s fees, which he undertook to foot as away of settlement. (TSN, p. 19). Although complainant failed to submit the srcinal or certified true copies of the documents in support of her complaint against respondent, respondent’s repeated failure tocomply with several resolutions of the Court requiring him tocomment on the complaint lends credence to the allegations of the complainant. It manifests his tacit admission thereto. Wehave no other alternative, therefore, but to accept the saiddocuments at their [sic] face value.There is no doubt that respondent is guilty of having usedthe money of his clients without their consent. As the evidentiaryvalue of the documents should be given more weight than theoral testimony of complainant, we place the amount illegallyused by respondent at P30,000.00 and not P35,000.00 asclaimed by complainant. Respondent’s illegal use of his client’s 2  money is made more manifest [by] his letters to complainant, allpromising the latter to make good his promise to pay the moneyhe withdrew from the Clerk of Court and Oas Standard HighSchool (See Annex “E” to the complaint).It bears emphasis that a lawyer, under his oath, pledgeshimself not to delay any man for money or malice and is boundto conduct himself with all good fidelity to his clients. He isobligated to report promptly the money of his client that hascome into his possession. He should not commingle it with hisprivate property or use it for his personal purposes without hiscllient’s [sic] consent. He should maintain a reputation for honesty and fidelity to private trust (Daroy vs. Legaspi, 65 SCRA304).Money collected by a lawyer in pursuance of a judgment infavor of his clients is held in trust and must be immediatelyturned over to them (Aya vs. Bigornia, 57 Phil. 8).Respondent, by converting the money of his clients to hisown personal use without their consent , and by deceiving thecomplainant into giving him the amount of P2,000.00 purportedlyto be used as a bond which was not required, is, undoubtedly,guilty of deceit, malpractice and gross misconduct. By so doing,he betrays the confidence reposed in him by his clients. Not onlyhas he degraded himself but as an unfaithful lawyer he hasbesmirched the fair name of an honorable profession.His belated payment of the amount he illegally used andfraudulently obtained do not relieve him from any liability if onlyto impress upon him that the relation between an attorney andhis client is highly fiduciary in its nature and of a very delicate,exacting and confidential character, requiring high degree of fidelity and good faith. In view of that special relationship,lawyers are bound to promptly account for money or propertyreceived by them on behalf of their clients and failure to do soconstitutes professional misconduct (Daroy vs. Legaspi, supra).Moreover, his repeated failure to comply with theresolutions of the Court, requiring him to comment on thecomplaint indicate the high degree of irresponsibility of respondent.PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is respectfully recommendedthat respondent Atty.Francisco Ricafort be SUSPENDED fromthe practice of law for a period of ONE (1) YEAR.While the findings are in order, the penalty recommended is notcommensurate to respondent’s infractions.Plainly, respondent breached Section 25 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Rules 16.01, 16.02 and 16.03 of Canon16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which read:SEC. 25 Unlawful retention of client’s funds; contempt.-- When an attorney unjustly retains in his hands money of hisclient after it has been demanded he may be punished for contempt as an officer of the Court who has misbehaved in hisofficial transactions; but proceedings under this section shall notbe a bar to a criminal prosecution.CANON 1- A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THECONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND ANDPROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES.Rule 1.01- A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful,dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.CANON 16 - A LAWYER SHALL HOLD IN TRUST ALLMONEYS AND PROPERTIES OF HIS CLIENT THAT MAYCOME INTO HIS POSSESSION.Rule 16.01-- A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client.Rule 16.02-- A lawyer shall keep the funds of each clientseparate and apart from his own and those of others kept byhim.Rule 16.03-- A lawyer shall deliver the funds and propertyof his client when due or upon demand. However, he shall havea lien over the funds and may apply so much thereof as may benecessary to satisfy his lawful fees and disbursements, givingnotice promptly thereafter to his client. He shall also have a liento the same extent on all judgments and executions he hassecured for his client as provided for in the Rules of Court.Respondent’s transgressions manifested dishonesty and amounted 3  to grave misconduct and grossly unethical behavior which causeddishonor, not merely to respondent, but to the noble profession to whichhe belongs, for it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants for theprofession is inexorably diminished whenever a member of the Bar betrays their trust and confidence.This Court has been nothing short of exacting in its demand for integrity and good moral character from members of the Bar. In Marcelo v.Javier  (A.C. No. 3248, 18 September 1992, 214 SCRA 1, 12-13),reiterated in Fernandez v. Grecia , (A.C. No. 3694, 17 June 1993, 223SCRA 425, 434), this Court declared: A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession. The trust and confidence necessarilyreposed by clients require in the attorney a high standard andappreciation of his duty to his clients, his profession, the courtsand the public. The bar should maintain a high standard of legalproficiency as well as of honesty and fair dealing . Generallyspeaking, a lawyer can do honor to the legal profession byfaithfully performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courtsand to his clients. To this end, nothing should be done by anymember of the legal fraternity which might tend to lessen in anydegree the confidence of the public in the fidelity, honesty andintegrity of the profession.Here, respondent chose to forget that by swearing the lawyer’s oath,he became a guardian of truth and the rule of law and an indispensableinstrument in the fair and impartial administration of justice -- a vitalfunction of democracy a failure of which is disastrous to society. Any departure from the path which a lawyer must follow asdemanded by the virtues of his profession shall not be tolerated by thisCourt as the disciplining authority. This is specially so, as here, whererespondent even deliberately defied the lawful orders of the Court for himto file his comment on the complaint, thereby transgressing Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which requires a lawyer toobserve and maintain the respect due the courts. WHEREFORE, for dishonesty, grave misconduct, grossly unethicalbehavior in palpable disregard of Section 25 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Rules 16.01, 16.02 and 16.03 of Canon16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, aggravated by a violation of Canon 11 thereof, and consistent with the urgent need to maintain theesteemed traditions and high standards of the legal profession and topreserve undiminished public faith in the members of the Philippine Bar,the Court Resolves to DISBAR respondent ATTY. FRANCISCORICAFORT from the practice law. His name is hereby stricken from theRoll of Attorneys.This resolution shall take effect immediately and copies thereof furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to respondent’spersonal record; the National Office and the Albay Chapter of theIntegrated bar of the Philippines; the Philippines Judges Association; andall courts of the land for their information and guidance. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno,Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Francisco, Panganiban, and Martinez, JJ. ,concur. xxxxxxxxx  A.C. No. 4349 December 22, 1997LOURDES R. BUSIÑOS, complainant,vs. ATTY. FRANCISCO RICAFORT, respondent. Facts; Initial case of estafa was filed and subsequently dropped upon payment of the respondent of the amount allegedly owed to the complainant.However, the administrative case was pursued by the complainantclaiming gross misconduct on the part of the respondent as to the delayedpayment of debt even with repeated request in addition to the asking of P2000 as bond in a case handled by him, which was was not even required. Issue; WON Atty. Francisco Ricafort be disbarred or suspended in his practice of law. 4
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